Every day until Christmas Eve I’ll be introducing you to an author whose debut novel came out this year. Today it’s Sarah Langford.
About Sarah Langford
Sarah Langford’s memoir, In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law, was published in hardback, ebook and audiobook by Transworld in June. It has been optioned for television by Working Title TV.
Tell us about your book.
In Your Defence: Stories of Life and Law is a narrative non-fiction memoir covering the ten years I spent as a criminal and family barrister. Each of the eleven chapters begins at the start of a new story, all of which are based on real life cases, and takes the reader through until the conclusion of the trial, shining a light not only on the strange and often mysterious world of the law but also on those who find themselves at its mercy – on both sides of the dock.
Where did the inspiration come from?
I had a baby. Well, two babies. It was only because I was on maternity leave that the meeting with my agent, Nelle Andrews, came about. She had read Henry Marsh’s Do No Harm, which offered a personal view of the medical world, and thought the same approach would work well for the law. I jumped at the chance to offer a counterbalance to the Rumpole-style memoir which has dominated the sector for so long. I also wanted to write about what really goes on in the courtroom in those cases which make up the bread and butter work of almost every junior criminal and family barrister. I wanted to tell the stories which may not make headlines but which profoundly affect peoples’ lives every day.
Who would this book make the perfect present for?
The Times declared it ‘often as thrilling as a detective novel’ so those who love a courtroom drama should enjoy it. Susan Hill just chose In Your Defence as one of her best books of 2018 in The Spectator, and she knows a thing or two about a good yarn. However, while I hope it is a page turner, at its heart the book is really an examination of the messy lives we lead. Ed Smith, who recently picked it as one of his best books of 2018 for The New Statesman, wrote: ‘Justice and the law provide the lens; the subject is really human nature’ which I thought was a pretty pithy summary.
What will you be reading this Christmas?
I’m lingering over Olivia Laing’s ‘Crudo’ and Hilary Mantel’s memoir, ‘Giving Up The Ghost’ which I’m dragging out because I love their writing so much. I’ve also just added Tara Westover’s ‘Educated’ to the horribly high to-be-read stack by my bed. The chocolate-induced child tantrums will also have me flicking desperately through my stash of unread parenting books before I give up and sink down by the fire to try and soak up inspiration from my back catalogue of World of Interiors (we’re in the middle of renovating a house-wreck).
When you’re not writing, what do you like doing?
I currently have a terrible addiction to the antiques website, www.the-saleroom.com, where I catch myself bidding on the most extraordinary pieces. If you video link in to the auction as its taking place it’s even more exciting. I usually pretend to myself that I’m Christmas shopping in an effort to reuse some lovely unwanted thing rather than buy new stuff but often have to admit it’s mainly for me.
Tell us one Christmas tradition you follow without fail.
Going to elaborate lengths to create the appearance of Father Christmas’s entrance using large quantities of flour, big wellie boots, reindeer teeth marks on carrots and half-drunk sherry. Also it wouldn’t be Christmas without an inebriated version of ‘the hat game’.